Teenage years are wrought with emotional ups and downs. Pressure to achieve academically, desires to belong to a clique, hormonal fluctuations, and an evolving need to seek independence all contribute to the emotional minefield that many teens experience. However, it is very important to recognize when a teen is experiencing a more deep-seated depression so that you can provide help. Teen depression can lead to self-destructive behaviors such as experimenting with alcohol and drugs like Rohypnol. To recognize and address teen depression, you may want to learn more about the prevalence of teen depression, understand the risks and symptoms of teen depression, and learn ways that adults can intervene and help teens get the services they need to resolve depression.
About Teen Depression
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsors the U.S. Library of Medicine, which provides research-based information on a variety of health topics. In their post, Identifying and treating adolescent depression, they provide information about teen depression including understanding the importance of diagnosing and treating depression in adolescents. Their research identifies many factors including the following:
- By age 18, about 20 percent of our nation’s youth will have had depressive episodes, with girls at substantially higher risk
- Major depressive episodes in adolescence last an average of 6 to 9 months
- 6 percent to 10 percent of depressed adolescents have protracted episodes
- The probability of recurrence within 5 years is about 70 percent
While it is important that any adult involved with a teen understand teen depression, this post suggests that depressed teens are more likely to seek help in primary care settings than in mental health establishments. As a result, primary care physicians may be the first to be aware of this problem in their adolescent patients.
Risk Factors, Signs, and Symptoms of Teen Depression
Because of the tumultuous teen years, it is often difficult to determine whether your teen is experiencing normal teenage angst or slipping into a more serious depression. The U.S. Library of Medicine post, Recognizing teen depression, provides information to better enable you to identify when your teen is at risk.
There are several risks factors that increase the likelihood that your teen may struggle with depression, including the following:
- Mood disorders run in your family
- Your teen experiences of a stressful life event like a death in the family, divorcing parents, bullying, a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or failing in school
- Your teen has low self-esteem and is very critical of himself
- Your teen is a girl, as teen girls are twice as likely as boys to experience depression
- Your teen has trouble being social
- Your teen has learning disabilities
- Your teen has a chronic illness
- Your teen experiences problems with you, or other parental figures or family members
Even if your teen has just one of these risk factors, talk with her about her mood and feelings. If your teen is subject to several of these factors, you will want to seek guidance from your healthcare provider.
The symptoms of depression are often confused with typical teenage angst but may include the following:
- Frequent irritability with sudden bursts of anger
- More sensitive to criticism
- Complaints of headaches, stomach aches or other body problems, and frequent school nurse visits
- Withdrawal from people like parents or some friends
- Not enjoying activities they usually like
- Feeling tired for much of the day
- Sad or blue feelings most of the time
There are additional behavioral changes in your teen’s daily routines that may indicate depression and include the following:
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than normal
- A change in eating habits, such as not being hungry or eating more than usual
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems making decisions
- Decrease in school grades, attendance, and ability to complete assignments
- High-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, or shoplifting
- Pulling away from family and friends and spending more time alone
- Drinking or using drugs
One clear indication of potential depression is if the symptoms last for two weeks or longer. If so, talk to your teen’s doctor as soon as possible.
How Adults Can Help
The National Association of School Psychologist has a brochure called that provides several valuable suggestions to help with teen depression. While these ideas were directed toward a school environment, they also apply to household and other settings in which teens are engaged, and include the following:
- Create a caring, supportive environment that promotes connectedness and prevents alienation.
- Educate students, staff members, and parents on the realities and signs of depression.
- De-stigmatize attitudes and encourage openness about the illness.
- Build trust.
- Train staff members and parents in appropriate ways to observe students and to increase their comfort level and ability to intervene and refer students.
- Use school mental health professionals (e.g., school psychologists and social workers) to develop prevention and intervention plans, provide intervention, and train others. Be familiar with community mental health resources.
It is crucial for adults to be informed, educated, and prepared to help teens with depression. These valuable suggestions just might make the difference in a teen’s life.
Get Help Learning About Teen Depression
Teen depression is often hard to discern; however, it is critical that adults are informed and know how to intervene. Untreated depression can quickly lead to abusing substances like Rohypnol and other self-destructive behaviors. Please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about resources that can help you.